XENIA — You might recognize him by his yellow pickup truck.
But you might not know that from his Model A, a Xenia man sells delicate, hand-crafted pieces of glass jewelry.
No two pieces — lockets, earrings, even wine glass charms — are the same. Some dangle — made of chopped glass fused together or raw pieces of sea glass or salvaged “sea iron,” a term he coined himself.
Others are smaller, simpler stud earrings — finished in a kiln — with the same intricate details and easy sparkle.
But all are different, undeniably characteristic of Don Coakley’s growing business.
Coakley runs The Country Glass Shop out of a workshop in his home on Hoop Road, but most of the time he sells his pieces at area festivals, street fairs and lawn art shows. You might find his jewelry on the counter at Tiffany’s in Xenia, in the gift shop at The Mills Park Hotel in Yellow Springs, or at his shop on Etsy.
Although the business is fairly new in name, now-retired Coakley has been working with glass for more than 20 years, an interest sparked first by his son.
“We used to go up to the Springfield art museum to take classes. We took a stained glass class there when he was about 15,” Coakley said. “I can do crafts but my son is the real artistic one.”
Since then, Coakley has continued his expertise in glass. He makes Ohio State mirrors around Christmastime, has a few nature-inspired suncatchers in his current collection, experiments with raised-glass panels depicting architecture, and has a stained glass hummingbird sketch on his workbench that he’ll soon complete for a friend.
His prized pieces of art include a glass ship weathervane that reflects light in his window, an American flag mirror he made for his daughter’s birthday, and a light fixture that hangs above his dining room table — changing themes with each season — per his grandchildren’s requests.
Today, he’s focusing on jewelry, a passion that began with his daughters on a cold day.
“It started out as a fluke years ago. I had some of these ‘millefiories’ that I had bought and never used. My furnace went out and I thought, well, I have this kiln, so I should just play around and make some of these beads up and use that to heat the room so I could do some stained glass work,” Coakley said.
“So I did that, and I’ve got two daughters and I made them earrings and they loved them. I didn’t really have a game plan, but they turned out cool,” he continued. “And it’s grown from there.”
Each piece of jewelry in Coakley’s inventory has its own story. He uses Italian Murano Millefiori-style beads, sea glass from places like Prince Edward Island, and “sea iron” he beachcombs at Fenwick Island.
“It washes up on the shore. I’ve never seen anybody else collect it or use it,” Coakley said of the dark, metallic glass. “When you’re dealing with glass, you can find things that have different lines and unique pieces.”
The country man’s process consists of manipulating glass in all ways — cutting into strips, grinding and breaking, rounding the edges. Then there’s the firing — a 24-hour cycle in the sometimes-1500-degree kiln — and the gluing and the assembly of earrings.
“What’s fun about this is you’re doing it all. You’ve got the marketing, you’ve got the sales, too,” he said.
If you don’t run into him in town, or at his yellow truck, you can find The Country Glass Shop on Etsy, Instagram or Facebook. Customers can call him at 937-776-1172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if they’d like to visit his workshop, or if they’re interested in custom stained glass work or even taking an art class.
“I’m loving it. It’s fun and I’m staying busy. This is just growing the business, and I get to interact with people out on the street,” he said. “If you’re not having fun, why are you doing it?”
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.
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